Edwin Lerner

Lady Beefeaters At The Tower Of London

The first female Yeoman Warder appointed at the Tower of London was Moira Cameron who comes from Scotland and took up the role in 2007. Like all Yeoman Warders, who are often called Beefeaters, she was a former non-commissioned officer who had served in one of Britain’s military forces – the army, navy, air force, or royal marines – for a minimum of twenty-two years with an ‘unblemished record’ and had been awarded a good conduct medal. As an often repeated Beefeater joke has it, ‘that just means we never got caught.’

The Tower’s Yeoman Warders are usually happy to be referred to as Beefeaters, although this is a nickname rather than an official term. No one is quite sure where it came from but it is usually thought that people assumed that those who looked after the monarch could enjoy a rich meaty diet similar to that of the kings and queens and others in the royal court.

Lady Beefeater Moira Cameron at the Tower of London. Photo Credit: © Joshd via Wikimedia Commons.

Lady Beefeater Moira Cameron at the Tower of London. Photo Credit: © Joshd via Wikimedia Commons.

Moira was not the first woman to apply to become a Yeoman Warder but was the first to be accepted by the Tower as competition for the position is always fierce. She has said: ‘To girls and women who would like to follow in my footsteps, I’d say don’t follow my footsteps – make your own path and only deviate from it unless you really want to.’

Yeoman Warders at the Tower (Beefeaters) should not be confused with Yeoman Warders at the Palace of Westminster, sometimes known as Yeoman of the Guard, whose job is to guard the Monarch at the Palace of Westminster. The Yeoman Warders at Westminster have a cross shoulder harness on their ceremonial uniforms as this was needed to carry an old-fashioned musket known an arquebus. At the Tower of London,  the main job of a Yeoman Warder, apart from guarding this important 900-year-old royal building, was to look after the prisoners who were sent there by the monarch. For this reason, they have a waist belt for carrying keys and the title of Gaoler is second in rank only to that of Chief Yeoman Warder.

Although the role has traditionally been held by men since the order was founded by Henry the Seventh in 1485, three women have been accepted as Beefeaters. They live at the Tower with their families and conduct regular tours of this historic building. Yeoman Warders also take part in the Ceremony of the Keys when the Tower is closed at 10 pm. The ceremony has been held every night since the Yeoman Warders were founded over 600 years ago.

Moira Cameron joined the ranks of the Yeoman Warders after more than two decades in the British army, first as a telegraph operator for the Army Signal Corps and later after training as an accountant. She served in England, Northern Ireland, and Cyprus and reached the rank of Warrant Officer before leaving the army. She was greeted at the Tower with the traditional toast ‘May you never die a Yeoman Warder’, referring to the fact that, after their service, Yeoman Warders normally retire and it is hoped they will enjoy a long retirement.

Yeoman Warder aka Lady Beefeater Amanda Clark at Tower of London. Photo Credit: © Edwin Lerner. Yeoman Warder aka Lady Beefeater Amanda Clark at Tower of London. Photo Credit: © Edwin Lerner..

Ten years after she was appointed as the first female Beefeater in 2007, Moira was joined by Amanda Clark who had served in the Royal Logistics Corps for 22 years and completed tours in Germany, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, and the Falkland Islands. Like Moira, Amanda lives ‘above the shop’ at the Tower in an apartment she shares with her husband. Yeoman Warders have to rent a home at the Tower as they are constantly on guard there.

After joining the ranks of the Yeoman Warders, Amanda had to learn the ropes before she was able to conduct tours of the Tower for visitors (normally near to three million a year). While on probation Amanda described herself to me as a ‘baby Beefeater’ but is now a well-known and accepted part of the community at the Tower of London.

Moira and Amanda were joined by a third female Yeoman Warder, Emma Rousell from Derby, who was appointed in September 2021 together with Paul Langley. Paul and Emma had both served in the Royal Air Force before being selected to become Yeoman Warders.

Blue Badge Tourist Guides and Yeoman Warders can both conduct tours of the Tower of London, guides for coach and private parties and Beefeaters, as they are known around the world, for members of the public who can easily join their tours at the entrance to the Tower of London.

Yeoman Warder Emma Rousell and Blue Badge Tourist Guide Russell Nash. Photo Credit: © Russell Nash. Yeoman Warder Emma Rousell and Blue Badge Tourist Guide Russell Nash. Photo Credit: © Russell Nash.


Edwin Lerner

Named Edwin (an early king of Northern England) but usually called ‘Eddie’, I conducted extended tours around Britain and Ireland for many years and now work as a freelance guide and tour manager with a little writing and editing on the side.  I specialise in public transport and walking…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also like

Six Objects From World War II With A powerful Story To Tell

On 8th May 2020, we will be commemorating the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day (VE Day), when World War II came to a conclusion. The war had been long, exhausting and involved a rollercoaster of highs and lows, militarily, politically, economically, socially and emotionally. I have chosen six objects that can be seen in London to tell the tale of some of these events. Each is on display at either the Imperial War Museum (in Lambeth, south London and free to visit) or the Churchill War Rooms (in central London, £23 for a standard adult ticket).

Read more

London's Year Of The Zeppelin

In commemorating of the centenary of the First World War, much of our attention has been focused on the soldiers that fought and died in foreign lands in what was described as a war to end all wars. Simon Rodway’s walking tour from Holborn to Liverpool Street on 11 November  2014 made us look at the events closer to home – the deadly menace that was the Zeppelin air ships that flew almost silently over the London sky in 1915 wreaking havoc on the unsuspecting Londoners below by launching the first of many incendiary bombs here in London and other parts of England. It was to be known as the Year of the Zeppelin. The catastrophe that befell London lasted 20 minutes but our walk would take a little longer.

Read more